Twenty years of my research can be summarized in saying “People’s tastes are not formed by accident.” I wanted to make sure people knew this, so they can make small changes which will lead them to eat less and enjoy it more.
Most of us don’t overeat because we’re hungry. We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.
Our studies show that the average person makes around 250 decisions about food every day – breakfast or no breakfast? Pop-tart or bagel? Part of it or all of it? Kitchen or car? Yet out of these 200+ food decisions, most we cannot really explain. Mindless Eating shows what these decisions are and how to make them work for you rather than against you.
Here are three examples. Because of our research findings…
One reviewer called me the “Sherlock Holmes” of eating. I thought that was cool because Mindless Eating uses science to answer some of the puzzles as to why we eat like we do. But it also shows how we can make our environment work for us rather than against us.
Bookstores classify it as being either psychology, diet, health, or self-help. I think they’re all right, but I’m still hoping for one of them to list it as humor.
The fact we like comfort foods is predictable, but it is also somewhat predictable which foods we will like, when and why we like them, and when all of it backfires. For starters, we found that men prefer meal-related comfort foods like steak, pasta, pizza, burgers because they make them feel special and well-taken care of. Women, on the other hand, don’t think of these as comfort foods. These foods reminded them of work – cooking and clean-up. Women much preferred the convenience of the snack foods, like cookies, chocolate, and ice cream. Eating ice cream from the container equals no cooking and no clean-up.
We want convenient, inexpensive, tasty food, and that’s what we’ve been given. But we can’t eat like a kid in a candy store. The key to the quickest way to eliminate mindless overeating is to start at home. We need to set up our daily environment and routine so we can eat the right amounts of food we enjoy.
The nutritional gatekeeper is the person in the house who buys food and prepares it. We estimate the Gatekeeper controls 72% of all of the food decisions of their children and spouse. They either control these decisions for the better or for the worse. But even if you aren’t Martha Stewart or Emeril, there are a lot of ways you can condition your kids to be better eaters. (This research study is the lead article in the September 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association).
The best Mindful Eating tips are personalized and tied to your diet danger zone -- meal stuffing, snack grazing, party binging, restaurant indulging, and desktop dining. Mindless Eating has lots of tips, but to really personalize them, it’s good to use food trade-offs and food policies to make small, stylized changes that fit with your life. Mindless Eating shows how you can mindlessly eat better, instead of obsessively eat right. It starts with only three changes.
After conducting hundreds of food studies, I’m increasingly convinced that our stomach has only three settings: 1) We either feel like we’re starving, 2) we feel like we’re stuffed, or 3) we feel like we can eat more. Most of the time we’re in the middle, we’re neither hungry nor full, but if something’s put in front of us, we’ll eat it.
A second result is that most people think they are too smart to be influenced by candy dishes, television, or the shape of a glass. When show someone that they ate 31% more because we gave them a large scoop at the ice cream social, they will deny it. That’s what is so astonishing. No one wants to admit they were tricked by something as mundane as the size of a scoop or the shape of a glass. That’s what makes these so dangerous to our diets.
Watching TV can be a triple threat: People who watch a lot of TV exercise less, eat more, and weigh more than those who do not watch much TV. In one of our studies, we showed people who watched 60 minutes of TV at 28% more than those watching 30 minutes.
Almost everyone does it at one time or another. It’s more important how frequently you do it. For instance, I love Soul food. Every time I’m in the South I pretty much spend the first day binging on Soul food. That’s fine because I’m only there once or twice a year. I also mindlessly eat from the veggie trays at parties. That’s a free food that you can eat all you want./p>
Most people believe they are Master and Commander of their food choices. I want them to see that they aren’t. But I also want them to see that they can make small changes that can put them back in the driver’s seat. I want people to see that making small changes in their kitchens and routines will make all the difference with no real sacrifice.